24 September 2005

Profiling is Not a Dirty Word

Back on April 25, 2005, a man named Gregory Despres (see amazingly descriptive photo at left) arrived at the U.S.–Canadian border crossing in Calais, Maine, with a sword, a knife, a hatchet, brass knuckles, and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. Agents fingerprinted him, confiscated his weapons, and let him into the United States. The next day, the decapitated bodies of his wife and another person were found at his home in New Brunswick.

Despres was eventually arrested in Massachusetts wearing a sweatshirt with red and brown stains. The same day he crossed the border, he was due in Canadian court for assault and for threatening to kill the son-in-law of the victim found in his house.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they could not arrest Despres on the day of his crossing because he was a naturalized U.S. citizen and was not wanted for any crimes at the time. He said agents did everything they could to check for warrants on the man, and said, “Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up.”

The spokesman further conceded that it “sounds stupid” that a man carrying what appeared to be a bloody chain saw could not be kept out of the country.

Good grief. I have to think there’s room for an intelligent judgment call on the part of the officers of the U.S. Customs Service, Border Patrol, INS, and anyone else who’s letting people into and out of our country. Anyone remember that we’re at war? Anyone remember 9/11? If we can’t keep a guy carrying a bunch of weapons, one of them with blood on it, from simply walking through a border crossing into our country, how are we going to keep a sophisticated terror cell from sneaking in with far more capable weapons?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contends that profiling of airline passengers and people entering our country on the basis of race, ethnicity, or any other factor is a violation of our rights and potentially demeaning. This thought process is flawed at best, if you ask me. I don’t want to rehash the old chain e-mail about how most of the people who’ve attacked our country in the past 20 years have been radical Islamic males between age 17 and 40, but for crying out loud, it’s true. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely abhor true discrimination, but sometimes common sense must prevail.

A few years ago (post 9/11), a Captain with whom I was flying tossed a man off our plane prior to departure. The man was acting very, very suspiciously. First, he sneaked into First Class and sat down in an empty seat. Then, he was observed to be intensely praying while looking at photos of his family he’d spread out on the tray table. Next, he asked the Flight Attendant exactly what time we'd be flying over Chicago. Several times, he leaned out into the aisle and stared intently into the cockpit. When confronted about sneaking into First Class, he refused to move and gave the Flight Attendants same very threatening looks. We elected to have him removed, and we called for the airport Security coordinator to do it. Then all hell broke loose. You see, the man was Middle-Eastern looking. We had to sternly and repeatedly assert that we were throwing him off solely because of his actions, and not his apparent ethnicity, in order to get the security person to remove the man. If the suspicious person had been a white male, I guarantee that no questions would have been asked--he’d be gone. But because the world is now so worried about offending Middle Easterners, we have to go through a very stringent set of guidelines to prevent the slightest appearance of--gasp--profiling. Several times, we were actually encouraged to reconsider our decision.

Does all this seem ludicrous to you? It does to me, too. If a guy shows up at one of our border crossings with bloody weapons, or acts like a lunatic or a potential terrorist on one of our airplanes, is there really a problem with simply detaining him for a while and doing some further research on him? I don’t think we’d be giving up any of our civil liberties to accomplish this. Call me simplistic. Call me a right-wing A-Hole. Call me whatever you want. Just know that if you board my airplane and start acting squirrely, you definitely won’t be flying with me.

Especially not if you’re carrying a bloody chain saw.

23 September 2005

Funny Flight Attendants, Part 1

From time to time, I hear flight attendants say some truly memorable things. Here's an example. More to come.

A flight attendant (F/A) is in the cockpit while the Captain is taking a lavatory break. All is quiet. She looks out the windshield at some white clouds far below.

F/A: Wow, look at all the snow down there.
Me: Actually, those are clouds.
F/A: Clouds... down below us?
Me: Sure. We're flying way up above them.
F/A: I didn't think we did that except on really long flights.

I'll leave you to think about and ponder the implications of that conversation. All I know is it sure was funny.

07 September 2005

John Stewart: Impending Liberal Implosion, Part 2

This will be short, and I won't spend any more time on it, I promise.

This evening, John Stewart continued his unbelievably obnoxious analysis of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina. My longstanding belief that it is liberals who have contributed more to the ugly "coarsening" of America than any other factor was only reinforced when I saw, with only a little surprise, that his main story -- which covered the supposed incompetence of both FEMA director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff -- was entitled "Meet the F**kers."

Stewart repeatedly referred to these two Federal government officials as F**ker #1 and F**ker #2," and the graphic below the picture showed the same "MtF" logo for nearly the entire duration of the story. Talk about mature and intelligent. If you disagree with someone, just use your nightly public access and "star-power" to call them names involving the F-word. That's a great way to get respect from me, I'll tell you.

I did have to laugh when Stewart (and Ted Koppel, who was quoted in the piece), both expressed genuine bewilderment and outrage that government officials apparently did not watch network television reports, and only learned of the growing dire situation in the Superdome until the morning of Thursday, September 1st. Media people actually believe that everyone watches them! That's hilarious! How out of touch can you get?

06 September 2005

Baja Finale

Another great sunset, this one taken from 3,000 feet over Baja, Mexico. Thanks to Cindy for a great trip.

John Stewart: Impending Liberal Implosion

John Stewart can be a very funny guy, even though he's a screaming liberal. Unfortunately for him and most other high-profile liberals, he's joined a downward slide into the depths of insanity and irrationality. For the last several years, viewers of his "Daily Show" on Comedy Central have seen it in his face, and tonight it was more evident than ever, especially when he talked about President Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. Stewart is no longer the good-natured satirist he once was. Tonight, he showed the true extent of his liberal lunacy.

After several primal screams at the beginning of his show, he spent his next ten minutes presenting a variety of monologues and the usual fake news stories deriding the Bush Administration. Here's the meat of his opening commentary:

"There's a lot of confusion over blame and pointing fingers, and the response to the obviously-horrible tragedy of the Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and whether or not the Government did enough; whether or not there were some missed communications; whether or not there was some beaurocratic bungling -- let me just say this, and the short answer is this: Uh, yes.

The long answer, of course, uh, YYYYYYYYESSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

Uh, the real question is, in the four years since 9/11, you have to ask yourself, has the government's advancements, procedures, etcetera, made us safer, given us more comfort, that they will have effective, or more effective, response to catastrophic events. And I think it's very clear that the answer is, "Oh shit, we're in trouble."

Now, for people who were saying, "Well, stop pointing fingers at the President, it's a left-wing media, [unintelligible] .. all right. [Pointing forcibly at camera:] No, shut up, NO. This is inarguably...inarguably... a failure of leadership from the top... of the Federal Government."

Stewart spent another couple of minutes talking smugly about how the President was on vacation during the storm, and expressing astonishment that he didn't rush to the flooded areas of the Gulf Coast on Monday morning. He presented a supposedly-humorous "Timeline of Bush's Journey Back to Being President," an "exposé" of how Bush practically ran from the storm instead of flying directly into its path and landing the moment the winds were sub-galeforce. He sarcastically mocked everything about the President's actions during the tumultuous week of August 28th he could find, from the food he ate in Crawford to his complementary comments about FEMA Director Michael Brown. It was pathetic. I rarely feel like picking up my TV and hurling it out the window, but this kind of crap is the very definition of clueless, moronic, liberal thought processes that pervades much of American TV programming.

OK, liberals: I'm gonna explain a few things to you. The President of the United States is not supposed to be an omnipotent, all-knowing, all-capable seer whose very presence instills calm and organization during a catastrophe. A President's calming influence comes later, not as the dust is still setlling, so to speak. He's not supposed to be the first one out the door of the Blackhawk when a Special Ops team infiltrates enemy territory; he doesn't lead the first wave of F-15s into battle; he's not expected to fight forest fires in the mountains of California, no matter how bad things are; he can't be there as a first responder if a terror attack occurs in one of our cities. And he will not fly into a recently-hurricane-wrecked city just to be there first. There are rescue people and agencies for that. In this case, it's utterly clear to me that the local leaders of New Orleans and the states of Louisiana and Mississippi were the ones in charge. It's their job to assess the situation, determine their needs and, if appropriate, ask for Federal help. This is exactly what was done. The situation there was bad after the winds died down, but no Federal help was requested. I even saw CNN reporters standing on Burbon Street on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that things were not nearly as bad as everyone had thought. Things escalated dramatically when the levee broke, and it took over 24 hours before a formal "SOS" was sent by local officials. Compounding things was the fact that, in many places, this was a natural disaster of truly monumental and unprecedented proportions. There was a physical inability to help people, even if an unlimited supply of food, water, and dry clothing had been pre-positioned just outside the city limit. There was no electricity, no cell phones, no emergency communications, no ability to travel to check out the situation, no nothing -- for the first day and a half. So what should the Federal government have done? If the people in Waveland, Mississippi aren't able to call in and notify someone that their town has been totally, completely wiped clean by a 30-foot storm surge, how is anyone supposed to do anything about it? It takes time for people to dig out, make it to someplace where they can assess the situation, realize how bad it is, and make contact. This is exactly what was happening in countless locations all across the Gulf Coast region in the first three days after the storm. If a truck full of supplies cannot physically make it through 9 feet of sludge-filled water to provide food to refugees on a bridge, whose fault is that, exactly? If the mayor of a town cannot notify FEMA because the primary power and backup power are both out, and City Hall is a pile of rubble, is President Bush at fault? Anyone care to defend that astonishing position? (It may be astonishing, but it appears to be the very opinion of many media liberals and pundits.)

Many people died in their attics because they did not leave their sub-sea level city in the face of a Category 5 hurricane. Sometimes the results of free will are tragic. Here's the thing. Sometimes Mother Nature overwhelms the ability of even the almighty U.S. Federal government to respond perfectly and save every life. The fact that liberals don't understand this -- that they are outraged when the government doesn't take care of every tiny facet of their lives (even if it's a once-in-a-thousand-years natural disaster) -- is further evidence that they just don't get it.

By "it," I mean "life."

I'll probably watch "The Daily Show" even more now. I'm morbidly fascinated to watch John Stewart implode and collapse into a black hole. He's getting close.